Rinzin Wangchuk

Relatives of the alleged victim in the Wamrong battery case has petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the case to Thimphu dzongkhag court although the SC has assigned an independent judge to preside over the case at the Wamrong drungkhag court.

The miscellaneous hearing to decide on the petition submitted by the alleged victim’s sister was conducted by the Officiating Chief Justice of Bhutan (OCJB) Kuenley Tshering on June 3. The party has reasoned that victim Sonam Pelden needs to visit the national referral hospital for the injury she sustained.

The alleged victim’s representative Sonam Choden submitted before the court that victim is bedridden most of the time, as her condition is not improving. The victim and her family then decided to seek treatment at the national referral hospital in Thimphu. “If the case is heard at the Wamrong court, the victim will have to keep on travelling back and forth from Thimphu to Wamrong, which might cause her inconvenience as well as financial burden,” the petition to the SC stated.

The letter also stated that if the case is transferred to Thimphu, the alleged victim could avail timely and quality treatment by staying with her close relatives. The appellant also submitted that she might not be able to get justice if the case is heard in Wamrong alleging that officials there seem to collude in the case against her. The other reason is the lack of a lawyer they wanted to hire if the case is heard in Wamrong.

Officiating chief justice Drangpon Kuenley Tshering said that the SC is yet to decide whether to accept the transfer of case to a different jurisdiction of the court venue or not.

Section 120 of the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code Act states that a petition relating to any civil suit for any relief shall be instituted in the court of jurisdiction. Sub-section 120.1 states that the site of proceedings shall be where the cause of action arose; where a principal plaintiff/defendant resides; and in actions by/against any agent/agency of the government where the government authority is located.

“If we go by the existing laws, it would be difficult to entertain the petition and might set wrong precedence,” drangpon Kuenley Tshering said. “Even Trashigang dzongkhag court has no jurisdiction to take over the case. That is why the Trashigang drangpon wrote to the SC stating that such move might deprive both parties from appealing.”

“The SC however would determine whether to accept or not after we received a comprehensive report of the incident from the Wamrong drangpon,” he said.

The battery case against the drungkhag drangpon’s wife was registered at the Wamrong drungkhag court, which was forwarded to Trashigang court to avoid perceived bias and conflict of interest.

Justice Kuenley Tshering said the SC already directed the Sakteng drangpon to hear the case at Wamrong court with media access throughout the court proceedings. “I have directed a neutral drangpon to hear the case in ensuring that justice is served expeditiously as warranted under the laws of the country,” he told Kuensel.

The SC also clarified that the judiciary assures it will not allow any professional association or familial relationship to hamper the administration of Justice. The due process of law will be followed to give a free and fair trial for both the suspect and victim as per the rule of law.

Appreciating the good decision taken by the SC to hear the case by an independent drangpon in Wamrong where the cause of action arose, some legal experts expressed their concerns stating that if the judiciary allows the transfer of the case, it would burden for the state. “If summoned by the trial court, parties like police and witnesses will have to travel all the way from Wamrong to Thimphu to testify before the court,” one legal expert said. “Justice has to be equally served to both the parties without undermining the rule of law.”

The incident happened in the evening of April 26.